We’re celebrating a very special birthday this issue – as Dead Good Media has just turned 10 years old! They grow up so fast, don’t they?
And while we might not have the cake and Fortnite dances (or whatever it is 10 year olds do at birthday parties these days, we’re getting old), the global agency has plenty of new toys as it looks ahead to its next decade.
While Dead Good usually prefers to let their clients take the spotlight, the agency has been undergoing quite considerable growth – having opened up their Canadian subsidiary during the first wave of the pandemic, further boosting the company’s global presence.
That’s not all, either. Last year we saw the launch of Dead Good Comics, a full-service publisher for licensed and original comic book material. The publisher already has some promising stuff on the horizon, with their second original title already in the works.
And that’s still not everything! Just this year, Dead Good has launched its bespoke game key distribution service, GameTomb, into early access – promising to connect content creators and games media with developers and publishers in a hassle-free environment.
It’s all very impressive for a team of 10 people – and we haven’t even gotten to their work for the likes of the BAFTA Games Awards and the global content creator campaign for Total War: Warhammer III.
Busy as they are, we managed to sit down with Dead Good Media CEO Stu Taylor and account director Carly Moxey to celebrate this very special birthday.
Happy 10th anniversary! How has Dead Good grown and changed over the years, given that 10 years is a long time in a rapidly changing industry?
Carly: Well, it feels like that we’ve hired one member of staff for each year that we’ve been open. But seriously, we’ve expanded the most in the last couple of years to support our current retained clients as well as meeting new business requests. Also, the dedicated influencer department was something that we introduced back in 2019, as we saw that the games PR landscape was changing, and we wanted to get ahead of the curve.
Stu: Yeah, that’s when we started to really see the demand for influencer outreach increasing, with clients expecting their agencies to deliver this in tandem with traditional media PR. However, our take on that was that you couldn’t just copy and paste what you do for media to a wholly different, and “new” entertainment sphere. It took a certain degree of humility to acknowledge that we did not have the same level of expertise with influencers as we did with media, so hiring talented individuals that had that unique set of skills and vocabulary was the next step.
You’ve recently opened up a new Canadian subsidiary, and expanded your team in the UK. What has driven this recent growth, and what possibilities does it open up for Dead Good?
Carly: We’ve always been a global agency, but we sensed that the perception was that because we had a UK head office, we were only UK and European focused. So, it felt appropriate to formally establish a subsidiary in North America to build our presence on that side of the Atlantic. It had always been part of the long-term business plan, and we chose Montréal because we had established client relationships here.
Stu: Also, we love the city and the Quebec province itself is somewhat of a video game mecca. You’ve got an incredible number of indie developers and small publishers, as well as established studios like Ubisoft, Eidos Montreal, Warner Bros., and Bethesda.
Our North American presence has been mutually beneficial for clients, as they can have the convenience and savings of having one agency channel that can handle stuff like press tours and events on a global scale. Truthfully, the pandemic did slow down our North American expansion plans a little, but with shows like PAX, Twitchcon, and Gamescom back on the calendar, we feel more than ready to ramp things up.
Last year you launched your comic book publishing arm, Dead Good Comics. What inspired this push into comics, and what can we expect to see from the publisher?
Stu: It was always something in the back of my mind when we set up Dead Good, but the primary focus back in 2012 was to focus on one thing – games PR – and then build up from there. I’m an unashamed comic book nerd, and this passion has crossed over into the games industry a few times, beginning with writing and producing the official Perfect Dark comic strip for Nintendo of America back in 2000.
From a consumer point of view, I felt largely disappointed by licensed video game comic books and believe that there is a lot of untapped potential to produce something that works as an expansion of a beloved IP as well as a great comic book story in its own right. The quality level that we aspire to internally is what Marvel did back in the Eighties on the likes of Star Wars, G.I. Joe and Transformers. From conversations that we’ve had with IP holders, there is a definite desire to bring their characters to comics, but they lack the knowledge of the marketplace and where to start. And that’s where we come in. We already have relationships with creators, understand the practicalities of production and printing, as well as access to the traditional comic store distribution network.
Next up from Dead Good Comics is our second original title, which is coming out towards the end of the year and has a couple of known games industry names attached on the creative side. We also hope that we will be able to reveal soon the first licensed projects that are currently in development.
You have recently launched your bespoke game key distribution service, GameTomb. What can you tell us about this new service, and what lessons have you learned so far during the Early Access period?
Carly: GameTomb was born partly out of a necessity to streamline the more routine aspect of games PR – handling media and content requests and then distributing review codes. Also, some of our clients were using multiple pre-existing distribution services to varying degrees of success. So, we wanted to create a game key request service that was as simple as possible for media and content creators, which also could reassure clients (and ourselves) that the outlets receiving codes were legitimate.
Stu: Currently this is something that our clients receive as part of the PR service package, but we have had many requests to just provide access to this service from publishers and developers who may not want a full-scale press office. Lesson-wise, we weren’t prepared for the volume of sign-ups that we had when we launched into Early Access, which did cause a minor Twitch sync issue. Aside from that, it’s already proven to be a popular tool for media and content creators who anecdotally say that they signed up for one game, and ended up discovering a few more that caught their interest.
In a previous interview with us you said that Dead Good PR wouldn’t involve itself with NFT projects. How difficult is it for companies to refuse these offers when there’s often real money on the table, and why is it important to distance yourself from the practice?
Stu: Yeah, I did think you’d ask me about that again. I absolutely stand by what I said during the game PR round table and, being totally honest, I was perhaps a bit surprised that I might have come across as an outlier. It’s just that the games media that we talk to still have zero interest in covering what some consider to be an ethically grey area. You only need to look at the comments or replies on social media when another video game NFT story drops. And honestly, it’s never been about holding our nose and cashing the cheque. I’m personally not comfortable dumping on our reputation and making the team miserable for the promise of a quick buck.
Carly: We don’t rest on our laurels and always want to evolve what we offer our clients, so hopefully that’s evident in how we foresaw the increasing demand for influencer content, and more recently, the GameTomb distribution service. However, within Dead Good, NFTs is not an area that the team have much stock in when it comes to something that is PR’able. We have built a reputation for ourselves for being “no nonsense” so currently, taking on a video game NFT project would be going against our company values.
Do you believe the big NFT push into games will continue, or have they been sufficiently scared off yet?
Stu: I think the conversation about NFTs and their place within the video game industry has really only just started. Sorry, everyone. Despite rollbacks from publishers on their NFT initiatives, it isn’t something that I think is being taken off the agenda at board room level. It feels like it’s being pitched as the new video game gold rush, like how micro transactions were universally reviled by the media but have nonetheless taken a hold. Maybe NFTs can be integrated into gaming in such a way that consumers actually demand it, but the inability of NFT advocates to clearly communicate the value to gamers does speak volumes at this current time.
NFTs might not be the future of the games industry, but what changes do you expect to see over the next 10 years, both in the industry and at Dead Good?
Carly: Whilst we will see the return of physical shows, the last couple of years has shown that digital events, done right, can work. We don’t see that changing any time soon and looking at the calendar for the rest of the year, nor do publishers. The pandemic has also made the landscape less clear on how traditional press tours and trips will function, with some media we talk to are still not quite ready to hop on a plane for an international flight to a dev studio. Finding the balance between digital and an in-person approach is something that could ripple on for the next decade.
Stu: Traditional games PR is constantly evolving. Over a decade ago, we saw print media diminish to just a handful of titles following the rise of the gaming websites. Now we are seeing websites lean into more video content and livestreaming in reaction to the core audience moving over to Twitch and YouTube. And then there’s the question of how social media channels fall into the games PR net – we’ve recently handled a campaign that saw a client allocate almost an equal amount of value on content for Instagram and TikTok, alongside Twitch streams and YouTube video features.
As for Dead Good, we are looking at opening a physical office again in Montréal. Our last attempt happened a couple of weeks before the pandemic broke out, but with the team’s continued expansion, it’s something that is being discussed. We had a work from home policy before it became fashionable, but do try and get everyone in a room at least a couple of times a year… and not just to eat poutine or throw axes together.